Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Doha and Dolts

No, I'm not making pro- or anti-WTO commentary here, just pointing out that the lack of media coverage or comprehension of the final collapse of Doha July 29 was astonishing in its ignorance. The attitude of western developed nations had all but guaranteed a failure for the Doha round anyway, but the participants got tantalizingly close to a partial compromise, only to see everything fall apart. And only the obvious NY Times and Wall Street Journal noticed. As WTO director-general Peter Lamy said, this is a "massive blow to confidence in the global economy," and will have far more lasting effect on citizens in every nations than 5.4 earthquakes in Los Angeles or kidnapped babies in Florida. But duh sells.

After all, we can't expect US media to pay attention as the Turkish constitutional court narrowly decides against throwing out the government, despite the massive impact this will have on the EU and on secular-Islamic relations. We only saw the Serbian nationalist protests covered because of blood, tear gas, bandanas, and fire. Cheer up! We'll always have plenty of takes of Amy Winehouse vs. Duffy on the soulful singer-stringer front, we'll always have Nancy Grace picking apart the latest blood crime signifying nothing, we'll always have Glenn Beck warning us that the wily Mexicans are out to gun us down with their poison jalapenos. We have a right to be uninformed. As Walking Wounded would say, I'm "saddled by idiots."

Monday, July 28, 2008

Faith-Based Terrorism

Look, I don't hold an undue paranoia about the dangerous potential of the devout. Despite everything Chris Hedges says, I feel I can walk down the streets of Colorado Springs, even in front of Focus on the Family, and say what I want, when I want, with no fear of reprisal. In fact, the shootings at New Life Church last December show that it's often those with a grudge against religion that are the most dangerous in society.

But the latest Knoxville shootings carried out by a wacked-out avenging angel named Jim Adkisson have me thinking again about the problem of catastrophist faith-based terrorists who want to purify society. Did anyone tell Adkisson that denominations like Unitarians and Congregationalists have been around since this nation was founded, and that they thus have more legitimacy than most evangelical groups? Did anyone tell representatives of the latest salafi wackadoodle Islamic group that there is no chance of establishing a global caliphate on the blood of others, in this world or the next one? Can all the world's faiths agree on purging their adherents of the type of lone-shooter-cum-suicide-bomber who believes in a personal duty to kill the innocent? Some religious leaders within Christian, Islamic and Jewish traditions have been a little bit remiss at coming down hard on the catastrophists among them. So let's make it clear, no matter what your vision of a divine God may be, there is no moral legitimacy in the avenging angel role. If you seek to purify society in the name of your religion, you are a terrorist and should be treated accordingly.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Patti Smith, Kevin Shields, Robert Mapplethorpe

Patti Smith and Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine) have just released a two-disc set of readings from Patti's 1996 poetry book, The Coral Sea, dedicated to Robert Mapplethorpe. The audio CD version of The Coral Sea is released on Patti's own label, not Columbia, so it's a bit hard to find. She does not read the book in two parts across the two discs; instead, these are two distinctly different readings from 2005 and 2006, both at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. The 2005 performance is crisp and minimalist, with each syllable emphasized and Kevin's backing more ambient, while the 2006 performance has louder, swirling performances from Kevin, while Patti sounds lush, almost slurring.
Patti's liner notes speak for themselves:

"My great friend, the artist Robert Mapplethorpe, died of complications from AIDS on March 9, 1989. His mortal suffering was so profound that I wept through much of the illness. After his death I wanted to give him something other than tears, so I wrote The Coral Sea.

I had tried to read it publicly, but could never sustain reading the entire piece. Performing with Kevin Shields gave me an all-encompassing landscape in which I could explore the emotions that drove me to write it. It was a privilege working with Kevin, a gifted, humble, and extremely confident musician. I believe we produced together a fitting memorial to Robert, who was, when I was young, my bloody valentine."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Neil Out-Curmudgeons Us All, Again

Ahh, Neil Young, shape-shifting through the 1980s and 90s fast enough to give us whiplash, then giving us Greendale and Living With War in rapid succession in the 21st century. He's a constant role model for modern curmudgeonry. The New York Times now tells us he's offering a film documentary of the 2006 Crosby Stills Nash & Young tour, called CSNY: Deja Vu. He went the distance, hiring former war correspondent Mike Cerre to be "embedded" with the tour, and badgering his bandmates to center on the antiwar songs he'd recently completed ("benevolent dictator," said Graham Nash). Young also seemed to sport a certain glee, Dixie-Chicks-style, when the audience offered middle fingers and obscene words for the antiwar songs. Really, what did these people expect? Graham, after all, is touring this year with a revamped "Chicago" that asks people to "please come to Denver, show your face." Young is spurring his other aging CSNY pals to be constant reminders of the dark side of American life, and we should relish that he will apparently remain a contrarian to his last breath.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Name Six Random Things to Do Before You Die and Then Go Tag Them

Oh, boy, it's random facts time. Don Mowry at Green Barn tagged me to reveal six random things I've yet to reveal on this site.

1. The only thing I ever won in my life was a set of X-Acto blades from a model car company when I was ten.

2. I was the first person to streak my high school.

3. My last name is the name of the biggest roller coaster in Europe.

4. The after-party of the high school prom in my junior year involved going to Spartan Speedway to see the New York Dolls perform live. That was the height of avant-garde. Everything from there on down was trite. And at the big 1982 anti-nuclear march in New York, I was standing in the pee line next to David Johannsen of the NY Dolls and got to tell him about it.

5. I shared a house in Albuquerque in 1984 with a mobile-home salesman who was really a wanted fugitive, and the FBI ended up raiding the house.

6. I steal the rye crackers from Gardetto's mix, and have a soft spot for Sweet Spicy Chile Doritos, preferable with a home-brewed pale ale.

OK, I'll tag:

Greeley's Ghost, Brian Fuller's informative blog on the death of journalism as we know it.

One Small Square, Sharon's stunning arts and photography and literature blog, simply because Don didn't tag her.

Portable Design, John Donovan's tech blog on all things embedded.

Umm, now I've run out of good prospects....

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Hold Steady

It isn't often that Entertainment Weekly and Pitchfork Media will agree on something, so the high praise for the new Hold Steady album caught me by surprise. I've always admired this band for Springsteen-like stylings, but the party-hearty lyrics of the last couple albums didn't do a lot for me. But I'll agree with EW and Bitchfork, the new Stay Positive album has fascinating lyrics about war veterans and townies with shady pasts, and clever arrangements throughout. Not sure I agree with the Bitchfork observation of suggestions of Husker Du, however. Still, here's one of the top contenders for 2008.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

FARC Follies and Ergenekon Eruptions

Forget Seymour Hersh's obsessions with a U.S. invasion of Iran, the real action is going in the peripheries, places like Colombia and Turkey. In Colombia, we can all give loud "huzzahs" that the FARC hostages are free, while realizing the political benefits John McCain will just happen to realize by just happening to be there when a Colombian military commando operation freed 15 hostages held for up to six years by the FARC. Let me say up front that I may not like Alvaro Uribe and I smell the hand of Bush everywhere, but I consider the FARC an illegitimate gang of thugs with no claim to a coherent political agenda. Hell, even Hugo Chavez says he doesn't like them any more. But before we say, "Job well done!" to the Colombian military, we have to ask how this all just happened to coincide with the McCain visit. Uh huh. Right. (Meanwhile, Obama visits Colorado Springs and waxes poetic about faith-based initiatives, even as his supporters chide him for caving in on the NSA-telephone-company-immunity issue. Politics as usual.)

The current Turkish comedy of terrors is harder to decipher. Over the past few days, 21 nationalist militants have been arrested for being members of Ergenekon, yet another secret Turkish fascist society dedicated to preserving secularism and eradicating Muslims. Now, in past coups -- 1960, 1980, 1997 quasi-coup, take your pick -- the CIA has clearly been involved in funding groups like Gray Wolves. Hell, in 1980, even mild-mannered Jimmy Carter was directly involved in supporting the Turkish military in crushing citizen democracy movements.

The AK Party of Recep Erdogan represents a different beast. Many players in the Bush administration, particularly in State and Treasury, see the Muslim party ruling Turkey as one that aids the economy and respects democracy. In fact, the European Union has warned Turkish judicial sources that any attempt to remove AKP will virtually end Turkey's chances of joining the EU. And yet, there seem to be members of the U.S. defense and intelligence community who have secret admiration for the attempts by the Turkish chief prosecutor to bring the AKP before the constitutional court as an illegitimate government. Certainly, US Vice President Dick Cheney does not tolerate the concept of Muslims running democratic governments, and probably admires the Ergenekon efforts to prod the constitutional court with a little organized violence. Where does the CIA stand? The Pentagon? The EU? US Congress? These seem far more interesting questions than ponderings on Iran.

[JULY 6 UPDATE: Two more key generals were arrested over the weekend for Ergenekon involvement. The leader of the Republican People's Party says that those in favor of Kemalist secularism are under attack. Try "those that are opposed to democracy by supporting secularism through fascist systems."]